In which a bear has a sword for you.
1. Hanayamata (Episode 9)
I thought this was a solid follow up to Naru’s apparent failure in the yosakoi performance last week. I liked the fact that the first person to help Naru up was Yaya rather than Hana which shows how, despite her cold exterior, she still cares very much about Naru and knows about all the baggage she carries into this. It was impressive to see the way Naru got back up after falling and it shows how she’s grown since she first set out on her yosakoi journey. The meat of the episode dealt with the conflict between Machi and Sally and I thought this was superbly executed. What impressed me the most about this is how despite all the animosity between the two, the show manages to paint both of them in a sympathetic light. As the impartial viewer you’re able to clearly see why Sally arrived at her decision to run away and why it upset Machi so much. It’s tempting to paint most conflicts as a black and white case of good versus evil but I find cases like this where what is “right” is far less clear to be more fulfilling. The one pain point this episode was the resolution right before the end. I wanted to give the show credit for not cutting corners or giving the characters an easy out after the principal refused their request to let Sally remain their advisor even as a part-time teacher. Unfortunately, the conflict was resolved almost as easily at the end thanks to Sally passing an exam we hadn’t known about previously. It rings kind of hollow when it’s just assumed that there’s an opening for a full time teacher and Sally passing the exam is all that it takes for her to become full time immediately. In the grand scheme of Hanayamata it’s not a big deal and the show on the whole is still great but it’s something I wish they could have handled better.
2. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Episode 10)
After nine episodes to set things up and establish characters it seems like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun was finally ready to try juggling the entire case in a single episode and once again Dogakobo proved to be up to the task. I’ve been impressed with the show’s ability to transfer naturally from one series of gags to another in a way that eludes many 4koma adaptations. This episode saw the plot move almost seamlessly from Waka and Seo’s date, to Kashima’s inability to sing (which gave me Kotomi flashbacks) and finally to Nozaki and Mikorin’s misadventures on stage. They all seem very disconnected but the episode included a couple key scenes that allowed it to make that transition. The actual content of the episode was up to the high standards of comedy established in previous episodes and I’m glad that the show isn’t noticeably losing steam as the season wears on. I’m glad Nozaki-kun exists and I hope to see Dogakobo get more work on shows like this because they clearly have a knack for it.
3. NoSubs no Susume (Episode ??)
Since subs for Yama no Susume are now coming out after my normal window for which shows are eligible for power rankings I’m going to move the next episode of Yama no Susume into next week’s power rankings. I don’t think any of the shows below this deserve the number three spots so I’m going to use this placeholder instead.
4. Ao Haru Ride (Episode 9)
Ao Haru Ride seems stubbornly intent on leaning on some of the more questionable tropes that inhabit typical shoujo manga. Last week saw Kou’s move into the distant, troubled and sometimes rape-y male lead role and this week saw the introduction of the very avoidable misunderstanding, another shoujo staple. I can’t say that I’m surprised since AHR has been almost painfully shoujo from the start. Still, I would have liked it if they could have been a little less blatant about it. Aside from that nonsense at the end, the episode was pretty enjoyable. I still don’t know why Aya exists other than to lust hopelessly after Murao but he’s not that big of a pain yet. With only three episodes left I doubt we’ll get anything novel out of AHR but there are worse fates than being an enjoyable if unremarkable romance anime.
5. Barakamon (Episode 9)
Barakamon slides into the five spot more by virtue of attrition than its own merits. The show is more or less as good as it’s always been aside from the occasional bug scene. The story and character interactions are nice enough but I still have a hard time getting myself really invested in anything the characters do. The characters aside from Handa feel very static as they appear to deliver their assigned joke and then move aside as quickly as they arrived. I’d be more tolerant of this if it felt like Handa was developing more in response to them but I haven’t been seeing any of the perspective-shifting moments like we saw in the premiere. That scene on the dam watching the sunset feels like a distant memory now and while Barakamon hasn’t fallen apart completely it stubbornly refuses to be what I wanted it to be. Still, the disappointment of Barakamon is minor compared to the shows below it on this list.
6. Zankyou no Terror (Episode 8)
While it wasn’t the disaster that the previous episode was, episode eight of Zankyou no Terror was a return to the same standard Hollywood police drama/thriller style that left me cold previously. It felt almost like a color by numbers of a police movie and while that style is arguably novel in anime, it isn’t a style I like in the first place so seeing it bleed into anime doesn’t exactly have me jumping for joy. At this point it’s safe to say ZnT is what it is and it isn’t something that I’m particularly enjoying.
7. Glasslip (Episode 10)
Speaking of things I’m not really enjoying, Glasslip continues its precipitous drop from occupying the top spot just 6 weeks ago. Glasslip may end up claiming the title for biggest disappointment since I started watching anime. An ignominious title to be sure but also one that it has limited competition for since it was some time before I was engaged with upcoming shows enough to actually develop expectations. I’ve gone over this episode’s flaws at length in my full write up but to summarize: not only did this episode fail on an immediate level, it also managed to invalidate much of what came before which would be impressive if it wasn’t so depressing. Did I mention this season is really bad?
8. Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 10)
It’s a race to the bottom with these two and Aldnoah manages to win the race this week thanks to the horrific resolution to last week’s cliffhanger. I figured there was a pretty good chance that Asseylum wasn’t going to be dead but Inaho being the one to save her added insult to injury. (Followed by injuries mysteriously disappearing from princesses’ necks) I have a hard time taking any characters’ actions seriously at this point as they seem to be calculated to create maximum shock and drama rather than in a way that resembles consistent characterization or logical thought. If Gen was still writing maybe all of this could have been pulled together but it seems like the remaining writing staff isn’t up to the task. The show is slated to be a split cour but I doubt I’ll be sticking around for the second half.
9. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (Episode 23)
I’d say something snarky about Mahouka here but nothing actually happened this week. It was just twenty minutes of people going to a science fair and ominously saying “Boy, it sure would be awful if something bad happened here now wouldn’t it?” The kicker is that it was a plot point that was already telegraphed making all the handwringing and ominous warnings feel even more pointless. The long-winded lecture on the specifics of magic-powered fusion energy was further evidence that whoever wrote this finds fictional technobabble fascinating. I hope none of it’s on the test though because I checked out halfway through. The ending at least promised a more interesting episode next week and by “more interesting” I mean “more killing of people from ‘Not China.’” Fun times.